Acts 25 - Outline of Acts (MENU page)
During Paul's visit to Jerusalem, a riot had broken out when Jewish men from Asia recognized him in the Temple (21:27 f). They had made false assumptions, and accused him of defiling the Temple. The Roman military had rushed in to arrest and protect him. Paul had been given opportunities to represent Christ before Israel, first to the common people (from the steps above the Temple platform, when the riot was calmed, in chapter 22), and also to the rulers of the Jewish nation (in the chambers of the Sanhedrin, in chapter 23).
     The Roman military had protected him, when a conspiracy to kill him was uncovered. A substantial force was assembled to escort Paul to Caesarea, where Paul would be judged not in the prejudiced religious court in Jerusalem, but under the impartiality of Roman jurisprudence. Felix, the Roman procurator heard the accusations of Paul's enemies, and also his defense (ch. 24). Yet, he never ruled on his case. Felix did have frequent opportunities to hear Paul explain the way of salvation. Although Felix knew Paul was not guilty of any crime worthy of imprisonment, he did not release him. He might have let him go, in exchange for a bribe. But when no bribe was offered, he had kept Paul in prison for political advantage. As ch. 24 closes, a new governor, Porcius Festus, has come to take the place of Felix, and Paul has been in prison for two years (Acts 24:27).
1. Now when Festus was come into the province,
after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem.
2 Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him,
3 And desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem,
laying wait in the way to kill him.
4 But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea,
and that he himself would depart shortly [thither].
5 Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with [me],
and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him.
After two years of going nowhere, suddenly, the wheels of justice again begin to turn.
Festus, the new governor, wastes no time in reaching out to the Jewish leaders. They are quick to inform him about Paul. After two years, they are still full of hatred toward him... and want him dead, whether by legal means or by ambush. One wonders about those men who had taken a vow, not to eat or drink, until they had killed Paul. Had the priests ruled to put their vow on hold until circumstances were more favorable to the conspirators? Evidently, they were still ready and waiting for their murderous opportunity.
6 And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea;
and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought.
7 And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about,
and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.
8 While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews,
neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.
9 But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said,
Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?
The court comes into session before Festus, as it had before Felix, more than two years earlier (ch. 24).
Again the Jewish leaders presented weighty, but unprovable, charges against Paul, who maintained that he was innocent of all of their accusations, whether they related to Jewish law, or to violation of the Temple, or to their false claims that he had offended Caesar in some way.
     Festus, like Felix, "willing to do the Jews a pleasure," is ready to play with justice for political advantage, even though this would violate his previous ruling that Paul should be kept at Caesarea (v.4).
10 Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged:
to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.
11 For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death,
I refuse not to die:
but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me,
no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.
12 Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered,
Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.
Paul knows that a return to Jerusalem would be a death sentence.
He knows the Jewish rulers personally, he had seen, in their eyes, their burning hatred toward him. He knew that only God's grace had delivered him out of the jaws of their conspiracy two years ago. He is sure that they will stop at nothing to eliminate him.
     Once again, Paul appeals to Roman law... but, this time to the highest court. Festus presided over a district court of the Roman government. Caesar himself would preside over the supreme court in Rome.
     Knowing that he would not receive justice in the district court, Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen: "I appeal unto Caesar."
     No doubt, this took Festus by surprise, since he needed to discuss the matter with his legal council (GK=sumboulion, not the Jewish Sanhedrin, but an assembly of advisors in the Roman government).
"Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Caesar thou shalt go."
With this statement from the governor, Paul is on his way to Rome. However, this course was set, not by the authority of Festus, but by the authority of the Lord Jesus Himself (Acts 23:11).
     But now, Felix is faced with the problem with which Claudius Lysias, the chief captain, had struggled: 'With what crime shall I say Paul is charged?' (cp. Acts 23:26-29)
13. And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice
came unto Caesarea to salute Festus.
14 And when they had been there many days,
Festus declared Paul's cause unto the king, saying,
There is a certain man left in bonds by Felix:
15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem,
the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed [me],
desiring [to have] judgment against him.
16 To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die,
before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face,
and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.
17 Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow
I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth.
18 Against whom when the accusers stood up,
they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed:
19 But had certain questions against him of their own superstition,
and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
20 And because I doubted of such manner of questions,
I asked [him] whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters.
21 But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus,
I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar.
22 Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself.
To morrow, said he, thou shalt hear him.
Notice that Paul's case was not a priority for Festus.
King Agrippa had come to celebrate the recent appointment of Festus as governor. Only "after many days," as the festivities wound down, did Festus mention Paul... perhaps as a source of after dinner conversation, and further entertainment... 'and while we're at it, perhaps the king can help me formulate some reasonable sounding charge against this man.'
     Of course, according to Festus' version of events, he is a great protector of justice. But notice, from his summary of the case...
  • that the Jewish leaders wanted Paul's death (v.16),
  • that the governor knew that Paul had done no wrong (v.19,20). The charges related...
    1. to the religious beliefs peculiar to the Jews ('their own superstitions,' ie., the way they choose to revere demons and other spiritual entities).
    2. to the resurrection of Jesus... Here again, we see that the resurrection of Christ was central to Paul's life and witness. Yet, to Festus it was something irrelevent and insignificant. He was not familiar with the One who gave His life for our sins: "one Jesus, which was dead." Paul's profession that although this Jesus had been dead, he was now alive, seemed utterly foolish to Festus.
  • Festus was "in doubt" or perplexed about such issues... and perhaps relieved that the decision was no longer his, now that Paul's case had been referred to the emperor. It was out of his hands, and also beyond Agrippa's jurisdiction, since Paul had appealed to Caesar.
23 And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp,
and was entered into the place of hearing,
with the chief captains, and principal men of the city,
at Festus' commandment Paul was brought forth.
24 And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us,
ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me,
both at Jerusalem, and [also] here, crying that he ought not to live any longer.
25 But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death,
and that he himself hath appealed to Augustus, I have determined to send him.
26 Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord.
Wherefore I have brought him forth before you,
and specially before thee, O king Agrippa,
that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write.
27 For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner,
and not withal to signify the crimes [laid] against him.
Festus lays out the situation, and explains the need for a list of crimes
to send with the prisoner who has appealed to Caesar.
But what is the setting? Who is he asking to rule on this matter?
"With great pomp"{GK=phantasia, show, display} the king and other dignitaries enter,
with great ceremony, in procession and with the blowing of trumpets. They are not quick to take their places, each parading in pride and ostentation, to be seen of men.
  • First is the king, Herod Agrippa II, the great-grandson of Herod the Great, who was reigning at the time of Jesus' birth. The death of Herod Agrippa I (father to Agrippa II) is recorded in Acts 12:1-2,20-23, shortly after he had arranged the execution of James the brother of John.
  • With the king is Bernice, his sister, with whom he lives in an incestuous relationship.
  • Then, the governor, Festus, and other officials of the Roman government including the chief captains {GK= chiliarchos, commander over a thousand soldiers}. Each chiliarch would have ten centurians under him. There were probably at least five chief captains in attendance, since five Roman cohorts (of 1,000 soldiers each) were stationed in Caesarea. Following them were the principal men of the city.
         All were dressed to impress. They were there to meet and greet the king.
In his introductory remarks, Festus refers to the emperor as "Augustus" {GK=sebastus, reverend, venerable}.-
This ostentatious title, fits well with this scene, and with the self-exalting personality of the emperor, Nero.
     [The emperor's birth name was a bit more humble: Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. As emperor, his full name and title was: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. Germanicus was a family name received through his mother (a daughter of Germanicus). While Lucius was a boy, his mother, married emperor Claudius, who adopted him, and gave him the name: Nero {meaning 'strong'} Claudius Germanicus (reflecting his family connections). Upon becoming the emperor, Nero became a Caesar (a title given to Roman emperors from the time of Julius Caesar, onward). Although Caesar Augustus was Nero's great-great grandfather, through his mother's line, 'Augustus' was a title which other Caesars had refused, considering it overly exalting of themselves. Nero readily assumed such honor for himself.]
When this group of digntaries was finally settled into their places, and then, only at the command of Festus,
Paul was led before them. On the platform seated in royal splendour are the king in his purple robes and his queen bedecked in jewels. Behind them and to either side are uniformed military in their brass, and with their ceremonial weaponry.
  • Now, below them stands a lone and humble figure, in drab prison garb, with his hands in shackles.
    This is God's man.

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